There is a lot of buzz around F1 at the moment in America. The Vegas scene is up and running, the crowd has been enjoying a live performance from Kylie Minogue, while the colourful fireworks display has pre-dated the weekend like no other.
20 drivers were also introduced to the Vegas crowd on Wednesday night as part of the opening ceremony, but it didn’t go down well with everyone. Reigning world champion Max Verstappen said he felt like a “funny man” as the drivers were promoted to the grandstands in the pit, adding that it was “99% show, 1% sporting event.”
Vegas goes against the grain, and that can be seen in the show. All 2023 grand prix weekends take place from Friday to Sunday, but not Vegas. The follow-up season starts on Thursday with the race on Saturday night, but why did F1 change its schedule for the Las Vegas GP?
Why is the Las Vegas Grand Prix on Saturday?
It’s a bid to get as many global viewers as possible because of Vegas’ time zone. The city, located in the western US state of Nevada, is eight hours behind the UK and 9 behind central Europe.
If F1 kept the traditional schedule with a 10pm Sunday race start time, it would be a Monday morning in Europe when most citizens go to work and the smaller audience size would not be ideal. This way, by planning everything 24 hours in advance, more people should get a chance to watch.
But the argument for avoiding that early start in Europe is to host the race in the afternoon until 8 pm in the UK, yet the Las Vegas GP has always been a night race.
F1 wanted it to be held at the start of the city when the famous skylights are lit for the main event with cars racing down the iconic Strip. And if you were to catch it just a few hours earlier, then it’s midnight in Europe which means a lot of people would have watched it all at peak time.
This is one event that F1 has been building towards for a very long time, and the weekend needs as many spectators as possible. CEO Stefano Domenicali said last year that the series had to change and for the first time make watching the Las Vegas GP work for everyone.
A full schedule of the Las Vegas Grand Prix
Thursday 16 November/Friday 17 November
Las Vegas GP Free Practice 1: 8:30 pm local time, 4:30 am GMT
Las Vegas GP Free Practice 2: 12 am local time, 8 am GMT
Friday 17 November/Saturday 18 November
Las Vegas GP Free Practice 3: 8:30 pm local time, 4:30 am GMT
Qualifying for the Las Vegas GP: 12am local time, 8 am GMT
Saturday 18 November/Sunday 19 November
Las Vegas GP: 10 pm local time, 6 am GMT
Is the Las Vegas Grand Prix the first F1 race not held on a Sunday?
In short, no. Vegas will be the 74th race of the F1 world championship that will not be held on a Sunday as each day of the week hosts one.
It started with the 1950 British GP Saturday, and the race continued to be held on a Saturday every year until 1975. Back then, it was common for world championship races to be held on Sunday, especially when the Indianapolis 500 officially became part of the championship between 1950 and 1960.
Traditionally the Indy 500 was on May 30th, regardless of the day of the week, but if that happened to be a Sunday the cars would race around the Brickyard the next day. This meant that the Indy 500 often took place on a different day each season, including a Tuesday in 1950, before being held on every other day in subsequent years.
As the seasons went on, however, it became customary for the F1 grands prix to be held on Sundays. Vegas will be the first to not be held on that day since the 1985 South African GP, which was held on a Saturday, another race that used to alternate dates. In 1968, for example, it was even held on New Year’s Day which was a Monday.
Meanwhile, although it is the first Las Vegas GP F1 that has visited the city before, the event was held under a different name. The Caesars Palace GPs took place in 1981 and 1982 which were also on Saturdays.
The introduction of sprint races in 2021 has added further difficulties, especially when it comes to competition. In 2023, Verstappen clinched his third world drivers’ title after Saturday’s Qatar GP, making him the first driver to win the title on a non-Sunday since Nelson Piquet in 1987.
The three-time Brazilian world champion won it after qualifying on Friday in the penalties in Japan, as Nigel Mansell suffered a serious injury that kept him out of action for the rest of the weekend, meaning he will no longer be able to catch his rival Piquet for the top spot.
Although Piquet has won three championships, none were won on Sunday. He won his maiden title (1981) in Vegas on Saturday, while Piquet’s second (1983) came in South Africa also on Saturday.
Photo by: Motorsport Images
The Las Vegas venue was used in 1981 for the Caesars Palace GP
List of F1 World Championship races not held on Sunday
*List does not include running races
|The race||The winner of the race||The day|
|1950 British Grand Prix||Giuseppe Farina||On Saturday|
|1950 Indianapolis 500||Johnny Parsons||Tuesday|
|1951 Indianapolis 500||Lee Wallard||Wednesday|
|1951 British Grand Prix||Jose Froilan Gonzalez||On Saturday|
|1952 Indianapolis 500||Troy Ruttman||On Friday|
|1952 British Grand Prix||Alberto Ascari||On Saturday|
|1953 Indianapolis 500||Bill Vukovich||On Saturday|
|1953 British Grand Prix||Alberto Ascari||On Saturday|
|1954 Indianapolis Grand Prix||Bill Vukovich||Monday|
|1954 British Grand Prix||Jose Froilan Gonzalez||On Saturday|
|1955 Indianapolis 500||Bob Sweikert||Monday|
|1955 British Grand Prix||Stirling Moss||On Saturday|
|1956 Indianapolis 500||Pat Flaherty||Wednesday|
|1956 British Grand Prix||Juan Manuel Fangio||On Saturday|
|1957 Indianapolis 500||Sam Hanks||Thursday|
|1957 British Grand Prix||Tony Brooks and Stirling Moss||On Saturday|
|1958 Dutch Grand Prix||Stirling Moss||Monday|
|1958 Indianapolis 500||Jimmy Bryan||On Friday|
|1958 British Grand Prix||Peter Collins||On Saturday|
|1959 Indianapolis 500||Rodger Ward||On Saturday|
|1959 British Grand Prix||Jack Brabham||On Saturday|
|1959 United States Grand Prix||Bruce McLaren||On Saturday|
|1960 Indianapolis 500||Jim Rathmann||Monday|
|1960 Dutch Grand Prix||Jack Brabham||Monday|
|1960 British Grand Prix||Jack Brabham||On Saturday|
|1961 Dutch Grand Prix||Wolfgang von Journey||Monday|
|1961 British Grand Prix||Wolfgang von Journey||On Saturday|
|1962 British Grand Prix||Jim Clark||On Saturday|
|1962 South African Grand Prix||Graham Hill||On Saturday|
|1963 British Grand Prix||Jim Clark||On Saturday|
|1963 South African Grand Prix||Jim Clark||On Saturday|
|1964 British Grand Prix||Jim Clark||On Saturday|
|1965 South African Grand Prix||Jim Clark||On Friday|
|1965 British Grand Prix||Jim Clark||On Saturday|
|1966 British Grand Prix||Jack Brabham||On Saturday|
|1967 South African Grand Prix||Pedro Rodriguez||Monday|
|1967 British Grand Prix||Jim Clark||On Saturday|
|1968 South African Grand Prix||Jim Clark||Monday|
|1968 British Grand Prix||Jo Stiffert||On Saturday|
|1969 South African Grand Prix||Jackie Stewart||On Saturday|
|1969 Dutch Grand Prix||Jackie Stewart||On Saturday|
|1969 British Grand Prix||Jackie Stewart||On Saturday|
|1969 Canadian Grand Prix||Jacky Ickx||On Saturday|
|1970 South African Grand Prix||Jack Brabham||On Saturday|
|1970 British Grand Prix||Jochen Rindt||On Saturday|
|1971 South African Grand Prix||Mario Andretti||On Friday|
|1971 British Grand Prix||Jackie Stewart||On Saturday|
|1972 South African Grand Prix||Denny Hulme||On Saturday|
|1972 Spanish Grand Prix||Emerson Fittipaldi||Monday|
|1972 British Grand Prix||Emerson Fittipaldi||On Saturday|
|1973 South African Grand Prix||Jackie Stewart||On Saturday|
|1973 British Grand Prix||Peter Revson||On Saturday|
|1974 South African Grand Prix||Carlos Reutemann||On Saturday|
|1974 British Grand Prix||Jody Scheckter||On Saturday|
|1975 South African Grand Prix||Jody Scheckter||On Saturday|
|1975 British Grand Prix||Emerson Fittipaldi||On Saturday|
|1976 South African Grand Prix||Niki Lauda||On Saturday|
|1977 South African Grand Prix||Niki Lauda||On Saturday|
|1977 British Grand Prix||James Hunt||On Saturday|
|1978 South African Grand Prix||Ronnie Peterson||On Saturday|
|1978 Swedish Grand Prix||Niki Lauda||On Saturday|
|1979 South African Grand Prix||Gilles Villeneuve||On Saturday|
|1979 British Grand Prix||Clay Regazzoni||On Saturday|
|1980 South African Grand Prix||Rene Arnoux||On Saturday|
|1981 British Grand Prix||John Watson||On Saturday|
|1981 Caesar’s Palace Grand Prix||Alan Jones||On Saturday|
|1982 South African Grand Prix||Alain Prost||On Saturday|
|1982 Dutch Grand Prix||Didier Pironi||On Saturday|
|1982 Caesar’s Palace Grand Prix||Michele Alboreto||On Saturday|
|1983 British Grand Prix||Alain Prost||On Saturday|
|1983 South African Grand Prix||Ricardo Patrese||On Saturday|
|1984 South African Grand Prix||Niki Lauda||On Saturday|
|1985 South African Grand Prix||Keke Rosberg||On Saturday|